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Character hugs

This week at Walt Disney World, social distancing measures are eliminated from character meet and greets, the last of the mask mandates at the theme parks are dropped, plus a new restaurant opens at EPCOT and PhotoPass introduces an interesting upcharge. 

Outside Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort offers a refillable popcorn bucket and SeaWorld offers another tease for its upcoming roller coaster project. 

1. EPCOT's Connections eatery officially opens April 27

Image: Disney

EPCOT's new Connections Eatery quick-service restaurant is set to officially open to guests next week on April 27 in the World Celebration area of the park. This new dining location features booths, tables, and bar seating and is located near the Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind attraction. This quick-service eatery also features outlets, USB ports, and wireless charging for guests looking for a device recharge while they are dining. 

The menu features standard quick-service fare including burgers, chicken sandwiches, pizza and salads. Food is served on reusable plates and stainless steel utensils, which should make this a more eco-friendly choice for guests looking to reduce their waste on a park visit. 

This eatery also has a large Starbucks area inside where guests can order their favorite beverages either to go or to enjoy inside. 

Though the official opening of this restaurant is still a few days away, this restaurant has been sporadically opening over the past few days, allowing some guests a chance to experience it early as part of a soft opening period. 

2. New Finding Nemo show at Disney's Animal Kingdom will be 20 minutes shorter and feature new characters

Disney recently shared a first look at the updated Finding Nemo show, Finding Nemo: The Big Blue… and Beyond!, which will open this summer. In addition to featuring new characters from Finding Dory and new projection special effects, it was confirmed that this show will be much shorter, clocking it at only 25 minutes. However, fans of the old show shouldn't fret too much about the abbreviated runtime as it was also confirmed that many of the songs and production numbers from the original Finding Nemo: The Musical remain in the new version. You can check out a video preview of this reimagined show above. 

3. All mask requirements dropped at Walt Disney World for the first time since reopening

Image: Disney

Disney announced this week that it has dropped its requirement for all guests to wear masks when on transportation systems, which was the last place masks were required. With the ending of this policy, Walt Disney World is now officially mask-free for the first time since it initially reopened in summer 2020.

4. Construction walls down at Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind

Image: Zach Riddley's Instagram

Now that Cast Member previews have started for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, all construction walls have been dropped around the entrance of this new attraction, giving guests their first good look at the entrance to this new ride. Annual Passholder and DVC previews are set to begin in just a few days, and then the attraction will open for all guests on May 27. 

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